The South East’s Housing Time Bomb.

With Homelessness Sunday fast approaching on Sunday, 28 January, it is time to reflect on the worsening problems of housing affordability and supply in the South East.  The problems and possible solutions are highlighted in the National Housing Federation’s pamphlet ‘ The South East’s Housing Timebomb ‘ published late last year.

The problems are touched upon in the Surrey Mirror’s leading article in its 18 January edition.  While house price increases are good news for those already on the property ladder, they are very bad news for prospective first time buyers and those seeking affordable housing to rent.  The South East’s average house price in 2005 was 232,736, projected to rise to 322,000 by 2011.  Average house prices are now 9 x incomes in the South East.  Even the cheapest homes are 5.6 x average incomes, well in excess of normal mortgage lending limits of 3.5 x a single income.  A single person needs to earn 63,171 to buy the average house and over 40,000 to buy one of the cheapest homes.

The National Housing Federation’s report goes on to say that housing waiting lists in the South East have risen 56% in the last 5 years.  At the same time the South East is only producing 70% of the affordable homes it needs.  Professions and businesses in the South East are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit staff who, as a result, more and more are moving to other areas of the country where they can afford to buy property.

There are no easy solutions but the National Housing Federation calls on the Government to make housing a top priority for increased investment in the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review.  The Government needs to enable the delivery of 10,000 affordable homes a year in the South East, rising to 15,000 a year if the problem is to be solved.  It also needs to change the planning system to make the delivery of affordable homes in mixed communities easier.  Additionally the main regional government strategies should ensure the delivery of affordable homes and infrastructure in a sustainable way.

Housing and Homeless Action Group of Churches together in Oxted & District